Challah is an amazing bread. It is such a comfort food for Cassie that we have been searching for a good whole wheat recipe ever since we started eating clean. This is the second recipe we tried and we think we found a winner. It is fairly easy, but takes some time for all the various rises and steps. It is well worth the effort. We used stone ground whole wheat flour to make the bread because that is what we had. It was very good, but definitely made a heavier bread. A finer ground would give a more light and fluffy texture that is characteristic of challah, but the stone ground loaf was definitely still a winner. We made this to break our Yom Kippur fast with. It was SO satisfying after a long day without food. Also it made great challah French toast the next morning.
Whole Wheat Challah
Recipe from Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads" Found via The Way the Cookie Crumbles
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. water
1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 t. yeast
1/4 t. evaporated cane juice or agave nectar
1/2 c. water
2 T. vegetable oil
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
For Final Dough:
7 T. whole wheat flour, plus more for adjustments
3/4 t. salt
2 1/4 t. yeast
1 1/2 T. agave nectar or honey
2 T. vegetable oil
1 T. water
poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional)
1) For the soaker: In a medium mixing bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. Cover and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, or refridgerate for up to 3 days. If the dough is refrigerated, leave it at room temperature for 2 hours before mixing the final dough.
2) For the biga: In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. Knead for 2 minutes; the dough will feel very tacky. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead for 1 minute. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. Leave it at room temperature for 2 hours before mixing the final dough.
3) For the final dough: Cut the soaker and the biga into 12 smaller pieces. Put the pieces in a mixing bowl along with 7 T. of flour, the salt, the yeast, sugar, and oil. You can mix these in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or by hand. Mix on slow for about 1 minute, until the dough comes together and then increase speed to medium-high and continue mixing and kneading for 6 minutes. Add flour if necessary (we had to add quite a bit more to get it to the right consistency). The dough should be soft and tacky, but not sticky. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes then resume kneading for 1 minute. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes until it is about 1 1/2 times its original size.
4) Gently transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 6 evenly sized pieces for 2 small loaves or 3 evenly sized pieces for 1 large loaf. Roll each portion of dough into a rope about 10-14 inches long and about 1-2 inches thick. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Braid the ropes.
5) Place the braid(s) on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. To make the egg wash, whisk the egg, water and salt together. Brush the braids with the egg wash, cover and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.
6) Brush the dough with the egg wash again, then top with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, if using. Leave the dough uncovered and let rise for 15 more minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
7) Place the challah on the middle shelf. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees, and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the loaf 180 degrees and bake another 20 minutes. Check the bread and rotate again if it is baking unevenly. Continue to bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until the bread is a rich brown all around and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom.
8) Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and let it cool for at least 1 hour before serving.